My (mostly) all-natural skin care regime for combination skin – tried and true!

 I’ve battled skin issues since I was 14. I spent years in high school, college and beyond punishing my skin with harsh chemicals and ravaging my insides with all kinds of antibiotics. The topical medications were effective for a while but they’d without fail eventually dry out my skin until I developed a different kind of skin issue. The pills my dermatologists were all too eager to prescribe also worked like magic, but knowing what I know now about gut health and the damaging effects of chronic antibiotic use I wish I could go back and pick a more natural path.

Better late than never.

For the last few years I’ve experimented with a variety of homemade, natural and gentle skin care treatments. Age is certainly on my side – my hormones have calmed down over the years – but my skin has never been better now that I treat it like I would treat any other vital organ in my body. Be kinder to your skin and if you can, skip the harsh chemicals and antibiotics. After years of trial and error here is what I’ve found that works for me….
Every morning, I rinse with cold water to wake up and lightly pat my skin dry. After that, I use a homemade toner (1 part Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera: 1 part apple cider vinegar), followed by EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 moisturizer. The SPF component is key. I’ve used other brands that are “matte-ifying” and despite having oily-to-combination skin I think I look less greasy when I used the non-matte-ifying kind.
Every night, I wash my face with Herbivore Charcoal Bar Soap and dry it using a clean wash cloth, moving it around in small circles to gently exfoliate and lift off any residual moisturizer or makeup. I then layer on a thin coat of Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel. I love how this feels on my skin – it’s like I can feel it tightening and toning! It’s not cheap but it lasts forever since you use so little each time. After that, I smother my face with a thick layer of Jason Aloe Vera Moisturizing Creme, which smells divine and is super affordable ($9 or less for 4 fluid ounces).
These rituals have worked for me on a daily basis for the last year and a half and haven’t shown any signs of losing their efficacy. As I get older, however, I realize it’s so important to give my skin a little more loving than this baseline alone, so three times a week I exfoliate using a homemade mix of coarse sea salt in honey and jojoba oil (1 part salt: 1 part honey: 2 parts jojoba oil).
And once a week I use Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Gel Mask. I’m obsessed with this mask even though it is a little pricey by comparison to my other favorite products. I always feel like I’m glowing and dewey afterwards. Well worth it in my humble opinion!
It’s a lot to invest in up front but these products stretch for a long time and your skin (and the environment) will thank you! It might take longer to see the results you desire but your skin will appreciate your patience.

Beauty Blooms from Muddy Waters: A Guide to Getting Unstuck

There is an ancient Buddhist value which espouses that the most beautiful things bloom from the muddiest of waters.

“Like a lotus flower that grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water surface, we can rise above our defilements and sufferings of life.” {here is an associated meditation you can try}

Sometimes it takes a while to believe that and you often have to go through heartbreak, illness, or some kind of soul-shaking duress to realize it’s true. For me, the process of getting unstuck from that mucky bottom to the freedom of a sun-kissed surface goes a little something like this…

You lift one foot and it feels as heavy as a Clydesdale. You set it down only to feel it sink into the mud. You’re stuck, like your feet are frozen in a ice tray. You muster all your strength to free it from the tundra only to find that familiar weight again. And so it goes. A slow, slog through muddy waters until you get close enough to the shore that the ground beneath your feet is more compact, less exhausting and more forgiving. Pretty soon the water clears and you’re hitting your stride. One foot in front of the other. You’ll likely be tired, in need of some time to make the conscious and challenging choice to shake it off, but you’re reassured of your strength and perseverance all the same. After all, you didn’t sink; you didn’t drown; you made it. It’s not easy. In fact your journey, whatever adversity it stems from, kind of stings. You will survive. Yes you will be changed from it, but you will be okay because really you always were.


My advice for how to make it through this process, whatever the source of defilement or suffering?


Step 1: Stay busy. Schedule yourself silly. I don’t always recommend this given how little down time most of us allow ourselves but when you’re going through muddy waters you’ve got to create accountability that keeps you going. This should work great for all my fellow type-A, DC go-getters out there. Do. Many. Things. Distraction can be such a blessing in the initial fallout from getting rocked.

Step 1B: Move your body. Part of staying busy is IMHO not only doing but moving. What better time to take a yoga class that’s so challenging it takes you out of your head, or use a run or bike ride as a means to explore a different part of town? With spring fast approaching, outdoor activities are all the more appealing and the added bonus of doing anything on a sunny day is the boost of vitamin D (and mood lifting hormones) you’ll get. Just be sure to wear your sunscreen!

Step 2: Stay connected. Though it can be tempting to check out or turn in, don’t. The more you shut yourself off to the world the harder it becomes to open up again. Make dates to see girlfriends, join a running group, see if you can be helpful to a friend who needs a babysitter, volunteer, foster a dog then take that puppy to a local dog park, visit friends in other cities, go home to see family – the list goes on and on. As my 21-year-old self decided to get tattooed in grand scale across my back years ago, Nit Nitay Garabam, or, “a person is a person’s remedy.” Your friends, family and community will be there for you. Be kind enough to lean on them. [P.S. I still love this tattoo. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the coolest 21st birthday present a gal could ask for! And thanks Yasmeen for helping me get the Wolof script Arabic right! ]

Step 3: Create something. Anything. Whether it be doodling in an adult coloring book, journaling, trying to figure out the choreography to Beyoncé’s “Formation” in your bedroom late at night (who would do such a thing…), or any number of other creative outlets, find something that is a form of expression and go express yourself. It’s incredibly cathartic. Try it.

Step 4: Get outside yourself. Give back to your local and/or at-large community. Find a cause that speaks to you and get involved. When you pour yourself into something entirely not for or about you, it gives great perspective on everything that you still have in your life to be grateful for. Need some ideas? Try Volunteer Match or Idealist as a place to get you started.

Step 5: Turn inside. No, this is not me encouraging you to indulge in self-analysis. We all pour over the details of injury, illness, heartache, loss, abuse, and other muddy topics just fine on our own. The kind of internal discovery I’m suggesting is of the more mindful variety: meditation. Meditation helps us walk through our inner landscape and make peace with all the scary monsters and gentle giants that lie within. As one of my favorite yoga teachers once recounted, mindfulness meditation helps us make the neighborhood of our minds a friendlier place. There are countless approaches to meditation, but I recommend starting with loving kindness meditation. Also known as Metta Meditation, the practice of loving kindness is a pathway to forgiveness and moving on. It can be challenging, but with time it helps to evoke an overall sense of warm-heartedness and compassion which can be lost in times of struggle. Mindfulness meditation is another great way to go. Rather than letting yourself become distracted by nagging thoughts and self-judgement, it encourages us to acknowledge whatever it is that’s paining us, feel it, and breath beneath it to the seed of calm that always exists at the core of our being. It may sound far fetched, but at this point it’s scientifically proven.

This “guide to getting unstuck” isn’t something to follow to a T. You don’t have to do all of these things, follow this pathway in order, or do anything that doesn’t feel right or helpful to you. These are merely suggestions. Sometimes all we need is an approachable yet actionable idea to get us up and moving again. I know that all of these steps have at one point or another helped me get back on solid ground again in the aftermath of life’s curveballs. I hope they help you as well.

When you’re stuck, all you need to do is the next right thing. And then the next right thing. And then the next…and so on, until eventually you feel safe and strong in your own skin again. It’s a continuum and it’s hard to say exactly when those small steps amount to an overall shift where you feel whole again. Therein lies the beauty of our struggles. Every moment we have a choice. We can choose to harden or soften; to shutdown or feel; to close our heart or open to vulnerability. If we approach the hard stuff breath by breath, hour by hour, day by day it starts to feel a lot less daunting and we can pick our own path of resilience to climb out of the muck.

DIY All-Natural Beauty: Age-Defying Coffee Sugar Scrub

Do you eat right? Exercise? Take moments to pause, breathe and reduce stress? If so, you’re doing just about everything right to lead a healthy lifestyle. A well-balanced diet full of fruits and veggies and low on junk food combined with movement and meditation are all key components to overall wellness.

One area that most of us neglect, however, are the products we put on our skin. Like our stomach, intestines and liver, our skin is an organ and it too can benefit from a little detox every now and again. The best part about detoxing your beauty regimen is you’ll save a lot of money—makeup and spa products are expensive!

Today, you’ll learn how easy it is to make an all-natural, age-defying spa treatment at home using ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen or pantry.

MOARfit DIY Age Defying Coffee Scrub via

This DIY remedy’s active ingredient is coffee. Coffee is not only loaded with free radical-fighting antioxidants—those are the pests that lead to drooping skin and age-related disease—but the caffeine in it acts as an anti-inflammatory and may even lessen the appearance of cellulite. Three cheers for that!

MOARfit DIY Age Defying Coffee Scrub via

It’s so simple to make your own age-dying coffee scrub at home, and here’s how to do it:

MOARfit DIY: Age-Defying Coffee Sugar Scrub

What You’ll Need:

  • A mason jar-or any other air-tight container
  • 1/2 cup coffee grounds
  • 1/4 cup granulated raw cane sugar
  • 2 Tbs raw honey
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, softened—you can also use sweet almond oil

How to Make It:

Combine all ingredients in your mason jar, stir well and close the lid until you’re ready to use it.

MOARfit DIY Age Defying Coffee Scrub via

To Use:

Scoop out a small amount and rub it onto your skin, massaging the area thoroughly to increase circulation. Let it sit for a few minutes then hop in the shower to rinse off. You can do this daily on the body, and once or twice a week on the face.

Have another favorite DIY beauty remedy? I’d love to learn about it. Start a conversation on Twitter @MOARfit or find me on Facebook.

{originally published on The DC Ladies blog, August 12, 2014}

Avoid the Travel Trap & Pack Your Snacks

If you have a job like mine where you travel regularly, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet when it comes time to hit the road (or skies). You no longer have the guarantee of a refrigerator to store fresh food, a good grocery store to purchase fruits and veggies, or a stove to prepare your own meals. Most of the time you will be forced to eat out and make the best choices possible. One way to avoid ordering a massive meal every time you sit down is to bring along your own snacks. Keeping tasty and nutritious snacks on hand will help keep you satisfied in between meals so you don’t become blinded by hunger, throwing your normally healthy habits out the door. Below are some of my favorite snacks to pick up before a long plane ride (such as the one I’m on as you’re reading this) or a day of racing around to different meetings with no time for a break.


To honor spring and healthy, beautiful skin, I packed these tasty detoxifying snacks:

1. Pepitas: Also known as pumpkin seeds, pepitas are one of my go-tos for skin detox. Pumpkin seeds are packed with the beautifying mineral, zinc, and essential fatty acids including omegas 3, 6, and 9. They also help reduce inflammation in the body.

Go for the raw, unsalted variety to get all the benefits without any added down-sides.

2. Edamame Hummus w/ Baby Carrots and Radishes: Baby Carrots are plentiful in skin-beautifying Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A is found in many skin creams and treatments in the form of retinol, but ingesting it is still the best way to get that glow from the inside out.  Radishes are high in sulfur, silicon, and Vitamin C, which work together to boost collagen, strengthen skin, and stimulate the circulatory system. And Edamame Hummus from Trader Joe’s? Well that’s just darn tasty.

3. KIND Bars: I love KIND Bars because they are gluten-free, and most varieties are also wheat- and dairy-free. They are non-GMO, have simple and natural ingredients, and boast at least 5g of dietary fiber (approximately 20% of your RDA). They are delicious and more satisfying than chalky protein bars with a million ingredients.

So before your next trip, stock up on the good stuff and arrive at your destination feeling a heck of a lot better than if you’d gone for that blueberry muffin or five-dollar foot-long.

Strong Beats Skinny Any Day

On this Valentine’s Day, I wish for everyone out there to feel loved. Romantic love is wonderful–and I hope you all have or find that kind of love–but the love I am referring to is the love you have for yourself. I wish everyone the feeling of self-love because it is from that place where all else grows. It may sound cliché, but I truly believe that we must first love ourselves in order to love (and be good to/for) anyone else.

For me, loving my whole self is a work in progress. I’m not 100% there but for the first time in a very long time I can say whole-heartedly, I love my body, and mean it. Contrary to our societal ideal of being thin or skinny, I love my body for its strength. For all those out there that make the goal of your fitness and diet efforts losing weight and dropping sizes, it is so much healthier and more powerful to change your focus and strive to arrive at a place where you can honestly say (and believe) the words, I feel strong. 


Physical strength is absolutely one part of achieving this feeling. I practice yoga daily and have watched my muscles  lengthen and grow. I’ve experienced elation as certain asanas have improved and other challenge postures I never thought possible have found expression through my body. While this kind of strength is empowering in its own right, it is an intangible strength that I first learned about when I traveled to Senegal five years ago that I wish all women could feel. This ineffable, life-changing concept boils down to one word: fayda. Fayda (figh-da) is a distinctly female trait meaning courage, pride, and attitude in Wolof (Senegal’s official  local language).

What it meant to me then and still does now is strength–beautiful, unabashed inner resolve that you are, and have always been, who you were meant to be.

Like many women (and men too, though we ashamedly don’t talk about their perspective as much) I have struggled with body image issues. I’ve always been a bit of a peanut but once those teenage hormones kick in, all of our bodies change in one form or another. That change can be really hard to cope with. Couple that with the way our media and society praise and promote the thinnest of the thin and no wonder so many young people have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.

Let me tell you a little story. In college, I discovered a love for rock climbing. I made great friends while doing it but at a certain point started to dislike the way my body looked. Vanity told me that the muscles I was developing were detracting from my femininity and a nagging little voice in my head whispered, what guy is going to like a girl with muscles like that? While that’s not the only reason I stopped climbing–time, travel, and transitions also played a role–I shudder to think that even one iota of why I backed away from something I loved that much was for aesthetic reasons, and ultimately the manifestation of a lack of self-confidence.

No one should ever be made to feel that in order to be beautiful you have to fit into a certain size or look like a stick-figure celebrity. A beautiful body is one that is strong and functional, not one that is so frail that a strong gust of wind could take you out.

You know what I think is beautiful? A mom who can hold her five- and two-year-old sons on her hips and still muster the power to grab a couple grocery bags out of the trunk. That’s functional fitness. That’s beauty. That’s strength.

Resistance training–which is bound to build your muscles–is an important part of maintaining overall wellness. Muscles help reinforce and protect our skeletal structure, guarding us against injury and inability as we age. Whether you decide that weight lifting or isometric bodyweight training (like yoga) is the way to go for your body, do something and don’t be afraid to be strong.

I am strong is a great mantra to find love and honor for your body and being. Be your own Valentine today and make it your own.